For just the third time in state history, Idaho’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee opened its doors for a public hearing leading up to budget setting over the next few weeks. 44 people took advantage of the rare opportunity to address the committee, including many with opinions and ideas about public education.
IEA Executive Director Robin Nettinga was among those taking the podium, and she highlighted the pressing need for increasing base salaries for Idaho teachers who have been forced to make substantial sacrifices during the recession. Nettinga also discussed the need to fund and establish more mentoring programs for teachers.
Several teachers, administrators and students testified before the committee. IEA member and Meridian Education Association President Luke Franklin pointed out that far too many teachers require public assistance to make ends meet. Sam Perez (Meridian) told JFAC that the district will face more cuts to staff and programs if the committee doesn’t approve more operational funding and increase teacher pay. Other IEA members who testified before the committee included Kim O’Neill (Idaho Falls), Mike Martin (Marsing), Terri Bentley (Nampa) and Kris Carte (Nampa). Each of these members eloquently highlighted the many personal and professional challenges teachers face as a result of budget cuts over the past few years.
Tina Polishchuk, past president of ITAG/SAGE told legislators that nearly half of Idaho districts do not have gifted and talented programs because the state is no longer funding a mandated GT initiative.
Other recurring topics included support for continuing the Idaho Education Network broadband program, the disturbing trend of top teachers leaving Idaho for better paying jobs in other states, and broad support for the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Education Excellence.